A friend recently told me about a wonderful lavender farm in Hitchin, Hertfordshire so Sunday afternoon we bundled into the car and drove the short 20 minute trip to meet her there. First up we had a cuppa and cake in the lovely barn tea-room and a mooch around the gift shop. As well as all manner of lavender products and garden accessories, there was a huge selection of different varieties of lavender on sale.
The nursery section had all the plants labelled in rows with every shade from the white Edelweiss through to deep dark purples. I even spotted my namesake.
But was when you turned the corner to the actual farm fields of lavender that the sheer scale, not to mention the heady aroma really hit you. Miles of row upon row upon row of stunning lavender in full bloom. It was a pure joy.Ruby was off like a rocket, chasing up and down the rows.
I have never seen so many different types of bees and they were fascinating to watch, busily going about their work. If you stop and stand still in the middle of the row, you can literally hear the whole place humming. I must admit, I did have a little Hitchcock-esque freak out at that moment. Trapped halfway up a row, no escape and it suddenly dawned on me that I was surrounded by thousands of bees. A bit like that sickening vertigo feeling you get when you look down from a tall ladder and suddenly realise how high up you are - you are filled with an equal measure of wanting to run to safety, and being rooted to the spot with fear.
But bees are good. Bees don't hurt you for no reason, and after a gentle talking to myself, I calmed down and carried on. There was picking to be done.
The Old Man demonstrated his hitherto unseen floristry skills and proved that real men pick flowers. He was quite expert at getting all the stems the right length.
If you are local you really must pop along. We had such a beautiful afternoon there, and they are open every day until September 15th, they are even holding outdoor cinema events and we've booked to go back and see Breakfast at Tiffany's one evening in August - I can't wait.
So, what to do with all this lavender? Luckily Red Ted Art hosted a craft hangout all about lovely lavender, so do check out the video below and the links for loads of ideas and how-tos.
I made lavender lemonade which is just perfect as a cool long drink served over ice on a hot summer's day. Delicately floral and perfectly refreshing.
1 litre water (plus another litre once cooled)
handful of lavender stems
Put a litre of water into a saucepan and dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat once boiling. Meanwhile, juice all the fruit and pour into a jug or bowl. Add the lavender flowers. Pour over the hot syrup and leave to steep for a few hours.
Once it has cooled completely, strain off the liquid through a sieve and muslin cloth. Either drink immediately, or bottle and keep in the fridge for a few days.
To serve, dilute 50:50 with chilled water - still for a traditional lemonade, or use sparkling mineral water for a fizzy drink. Serve over ice with a slice of lemon, a sprinkle of lavender flowers and a stem of lavender.
Lavender Craft Hangout
Red Ted Art - Lavender Wands; kid's easy make lavender bags; lavender bath sachets; no-sew lavender pillows
Kid's Chaos - Lavender Scones
Bear Blue Wood - Lavender cookies, Lavender sugar and Lavender tea
Domestic Goddesque - Lavender fans and bath scrub
Jenni Fischer - Lavender play-doh, Lavender bath goodies